Rappaz R N Danja
In late 1996, months after Tupac's trip to Vegas and in the midst of what was being billed as a battle between coasts, Dr. Dre's Aftermath record label and album began public trading. One of the few memorable cuts from this otherwise forgettable album joined Nas and KRS-One with B Real and RBX, aka East Coast and West Coast. This was Dre's attempt to follow through with the mission statement he had laid out just earlier on Nas Is Coming, "all these niggas out here just talking this East Coast, West Coast bullshit. Niggas need to kill that shit, make some money." In this context, for whatever noise the bicoastal posse cut, East Coast, West Coast Killas, did or did not make, it's notable for at least doing something other than playing into the media-laid bear trap of divide and conquer. However, with that beef past gone, and "East Coast this" "West Coast this" passé, or at least evolved, perhaps the power of the track isn't what it used to be. Nevertheless, for any fan of Hip-Hop, it must retain its status simply because it joined The Teacher with one of his finest pupils. It was Nas and KRS on record together, for their first and only time since. But let's call on perspective.
Almost 10 years ago, Jay-Z said where he's from, kids argued all day about who's the best MC: himself, Biggie or Nas. But when those three were growing up, having that conversation without mentioning KRS-One would have been ridiculous. Matter fact, KRS more than earned a spot in that conversation back in '97 and still has a reserve seat today. For many MCs, longevity doesn't stretch further than the rear end of some flashy foreign sports car. Then those rappers who do manage to stick around the game for a couple albums like to talk about how they have a "career." In reality, most of them are just putting out songs, a club single there, a street single if we're lucky, jumping from trend to trend. KRS-One has had a career. 20 years and 15 albums deep, it's safe to say he's seen and done it all.
"It used to irk me when these critics had opinions / Scott would say, 'just keep rapping, I'll keep spinning' / We had a fucked up contract, but we signed it / And dropped the Hip-Hop album Criminal Minded / We told the critics, 'your opinions are bull' / Same time Eric B and Rakim dropped Paid in Full / Hip-Hop pioneers, we didn't ask to be / But right then Hip-Hop changed drastically"
Standing at the threshold of a changing style in rap music, and defining the Golden Age with intensity and James Brown loops, KRS' work was the very foundation of what we take for granted in Hip-Hop today. As the voice of Boogie Down Productions, he became known as one of the top MCs. And for molding an education on beats while never ceasing to entertain, he became known simply as the "The Teacher." But even when he wasn't educating, heads still had to react. Responsible for some of the most venomous diss rhymes ever recorded, the Blastmaster earned an even greater rep. Specifically, by taking shots at the Queensbridge Projects of MC Shan and Marley Marl, and later Nas himself, KRS set the standard for how a rap battle on wax would go and be won.
"We don't complain, nor do we play the game of favors / Boogie Down Production come in three different flavors / Pick any dick for the flavor that you savor / . . . I finally figured it out, Magic's mouth is used for sucking / Roxanne Shante is only good for steady fucking / MC Shan and Marley Marl is really only bluffing / Like Doug E Fresh said, 'I tell you now, you ain't nothing' . . . / You better change what comes out your speaker / You're better off talking 'bout your wack Puma sneaker / 'Cause Bronx created Hip-Hop / Queens will only get dropped / You're still telling lies to me"
Some people might find it odd that as an MC who was one of the first to seriously promote knowledge and understanding, KRS spent a lot of the time ripping into other rappers. And not just the nameless variety: MC Shan, Roxanne Shante, X-Clan and Nelly are a few who have got to the bad side of The Teacher. PM Dawn even managed to get tossed off the stage during a show by KRS for questioning what he stood for in a magazine article. As curious as this behavior seems, one could argue that KRS has a very strict set of guidelines of what Hip-Hop should be, and to enforce this view, he'll simply take it to physical levels.
"You small time, you ain't a pro / Yeah, you kick the raw rhyme / But your show and your flow, that's all mine / Oh silly me / If I call on my lyric ability / I'll bring it right straight to your door, free delivery / Get with me, now I spit rap / I represent peace and knowledge, but I will contradict that"
Beyond the battles, KRS, also known for his stage presence, fittingly released one of the premier live Hip-Hop albums in 1991. Two years later, breaking "solo" for the first time, he invited rap along for a Return of the Boom Bap, an ode to the thump that had catapulted himself and Hip-Hop into its Golden Age. Next he started the Human Education Against Lies and Temple of Hip-Hop organizations. Following these moves, KRS left his longtime label home, Jive, and explored himself beyond the physical with Spiritual Minded.
While in some circles he's now become more of a caricature of his past self, like by petitioning the UN to make Hip-Hop its own nation state, when the story of KRS-One is eventually told--as Nas has planned to do with an Unauthorized Biography sometime soon--he should be remembered for educating the Hip-Hop generation in ways their high school textbooks would never have. Ideas like Moses and Jesus being black were unheard of back in the early '90s. But it was with this message of empowerment and education that KRS influenced legions of fans, a number of who would themselves emerge in the decade afterward as some of the greatest MCs. KRS taught a generation of listeners to question the status quo. From the classroom to politics, the streets to music, he made Hip-Hop stand for something, made Hip-Hop stand for itself.
Know this, I'm evil like the exorcist to the locustsGroup Therapy: East Coast, West Coast Killas
Ferocious thoughts, emerging at night
Like Jehovah towards the virgin in white
I'm wrapped in the turban for spite
BONUS: Boogie Down Productions: The Bridge Is Over
BONUS: D.I.T.C. f/ KRS-One: Drop It Heavy
BONUS: KRS-One: Outta Here
*NOTE: Thanks to Jesse Ducker, music editor of Shout Magazine, for the assistance on today's entry.--Fletch